The debate between hand sanitizer and handwashing is surprisingly... heated.
We reached out to two germ experts to find out which method is really better and why.
We spoke to Kelly Reynolds, germ expert and associate professor of environmental health at the University of Arizona, and Jason Tetro, visiting scientist at the University of Guelph and author of the best-selling book Germ Files.
First of all, not all hand sanitizers are equal.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are effective at killing most stuff, including cold and flu germs — but not everything.
So washing your hands with soap and water is the best hygiene method because it gets rid of more germs AND dirt, debris, and grime.
BUT, you need to wash your hands properly — which means lathering with soap for 20 seconds.
But hand sanitizer is still a good option if you can't wash your hands in the moment or you don’t have access to clean water.
And yes, hand sanitizer does "kill the good bacteria" on your hands — but there's no evidence that this is bad for your health.
Bottom line: Keeping your hands clean — whether that's through sanitizer or washing — will help prevent illness and keep you healthy.
And this is especially important for the upcoming cold and flu season!
I wash my handsI use hand sanitizerI use bothI don't do either and hope for the best
vote votesI wash my hands
vote votesI use hand sanitizer
vote votesI use both
vote votesI don't do either and hope for the best
Caroline Kee is a health reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Caroline Kee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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